Black Cat Oil
By Hal Horowitz
Even though the members of live in the sprawling city of Atlanta, they increasingly resemble a band born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. Tom Gray‘s grainy voice and the way his slide guitar lines interweave with those of Delta Moon co-founder Mark Johnson give the band a rustic style that’s believable if not particularly authentic. Regardless, the band has created an impressive catalog of swampy blues with rock, soul, gospel, and folk strains of with Black Cat Oil, their seventh release, another impressive entry. The approach is somewhat more stripped down with the ever-present standup bass delivering a more organic groove, especially on the title track which, with its interlocking guitars, voodoo overtones, and humid, summer’s night vibe, is as good a capsulation of this group’s technique as anything they have recorded. The lyrics generally concern traveling through the South and life in small towns, and the music’s insistent pulse follows suit, making this a logical audio companion for longer car trips. The walking bass and low boil percussion of “Sunshine” create a slightly ominous feel that contrasts with the song’s upbeat lope. The detailed visuals of the protagonist in “Neon Jesus” who, with one eye shut, his jaw swollen, “tasting blood and seeing stars,” observes the titular figure is another ghostly, unsettling image underscored by Johnson‘s sweet yet stinging slide. Delta Moon traditionally close their albums with a classic Southern blues cover. This time, Mississippi Fred McDowell‘s “Write Me a Few of Your Lines” fills the bill, allowing the guitarists a chance to open up on one of the set’s most rollicking and energized moments. There may not be many musical surprises as Delta Moon enters its second decade, but with an instantly identifiable sound, typically top-notch musicianship, and another batch of smartly written, above-average tunes that could only have been written in the South, there’s nothing wrong with not fixing what’s not broken.